Combine height: 6-0
Combine weight: 198 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.43 seconds
Maclin’s production as a receiver—102 catches for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns last year as a redshirt sophomore, 182 catches for 2,315 yards and 22 touchdowns for his abbreviated Missouri career—only tells part of the story. Maclin set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yardage with 2,776 combined receiving, rushing, and return yards and 16 touchdowns; he followed that effort with 2,833 all-purpose yards—fifth-most in NCAA history—last year and scored a combined 17 touchdowns.
Simply put, Maclin is a playmaker. He has adequate size, tremendous athletic ability, and great speed and quickness. A tweaked knee at the Combine likely contributed to a slower-than-expected 4.43 in the 40—he’s been clocked under 4.3 previously—and he’s expected to lower that time at Missouri’s second pro day on March 19. But Maclin isn’t simply a burner; he has good vision as a runner and is elusive in the open field, and it’s that versatility—running, catching, and in the return game—that has scouts salivating. Maclin also showed plenty of character in coming back strong from a serious knee injury that forced him to redshirt during his first year at Missouri.
That injury—and the hyperextended knee he suffered at the Combine—will be enough to make teams give Maclin a thorough once-over before drafting him. But aside from those concerns, the only other issue scouts seem to have is that playing in Missouri’s spread offense has allowed him to get by on athletic ability without refining his route-running. It’s a quibble that shouldn’t prevent teams from adding his playmaking ability and encouraging him to spend a little extra time with his position coach to hone his technique.
Not only is Maclin viewed as a potential game-breaking receiver, he also brings elite return skills to the mix. That may not be enough to move him off the board in the top five, but the Bengals (6) and Jaguars (8) could use upgrades in both facets of the game. And if Maclin runs a sub-4.3 time at his pro day… well, you know how much Al Davis loves speed. If Maclin remains on the board through the top 10 he may slide a bit, as the next team with a significant need at receiver is the Jets at 17. The Bears are in the market for a No. 1 receiver, though adding another quality return guy would give them an embarrassment of riches in that area. The Buccaneers (19), Lions (20), Eagles (21), and Vikings (22) would all have interest, though it seems a stretch to think Maclin will still be on the board at that juncture. However, receivers have tended to slide in drafts of late—like last year, when none went in the first round—so you’d have to think the Ravens, Colts, Giants and Titans would all be anxiously waiting out a Maclin slide to the nether regions of round one.
Maybe because he played his college ball in the Midwest, Maclin doesn’t hit the NFL with as much hype as, say, Devin Hester despite having similar return skills and a stronger resume as a receiver. No question whichever NFL team drafts him will put him to immediate use on special teams, and if he can augment a poor man’s Hester-level of production in the return game with some decent numbers as a receiver he makes an intriguing sleeper pick—especially in leagues where long return touchdowns might bring some bonus points to the table. There’s always a caveat with rookie receivers, especially those who come to the NFL without refined route-running skills. That said, Maclin will be drafted high enough that his team will find ways to use him—returns, reverses, in the slot—to such an extent that if you’re the kind of fantasy player who likes to swing for the fences he’s a guy you’ll want on your roster. He may give you more than a few one- and two-catch games—but he’s also capable of a game-breaking long touchdown every time he touches the ball.
Because Maclin has so much raw potential as a receiver, he’ll be an even more valuable commodity in dynasty leagues. You have to think that worst-case he’ll bring return scores to the table while he’s learning how to play wideout at the NFL level—and once he learns how to best use his athleticism and burst in the pro passing game he’ll be one of the league’s premiere big-play threats. Of course there’s no guarantee that potential ever gets realized, but there’s no denying the upside.